Sports and Fun in Greece: Adventures with a historical twist

a man running the finishing line of marathon
© Gravanis

The history of athletic excellence in Greece dates back some 2,500 years. It all began in the early 5th c. BC with the victory of the Greeks over the Persian Empire - a milestone in Greek and European history. According to historical records, an Athenian soldier & messenger, named Pheidippidis, was dispatched from Athens to Sparta, before the battle which was about to take place in Marathon, to deliver the news of the Persian invasion, and ask for help. He ran the 220 km distance between the two cities, in full armour, and returned to Athens with the reply. This ancient ultra distance runner has been associated with two international present-day running events: the Spartathlon, and the Athens Marathon – although Pheidippidis’ connection to the latter cannot be historically proven.

Spartathlon ranks high among the famed ultra marathon races in the world, and it takes place annually, in late September. The runners cover the 245 km distance from Athens to Sparta City, and the cut-off time is 36 hours. The race ends at Sparta’s main square, and the finishers get crowned with an olive branch wreath –the ancient Greek symbol of peace, wisdom and victory – in commemoration of the award ceremony held for the Olympic Games winners in antiquity.

The Marathon races are among the most famous running events across the world. The Athens Marathon -known as the Authentic- takes place every November, and it is the first Marathon in history: the 42 km course from Marathon to Athens was covered for the first time in 490 BC by an Athenian army messenger who ran to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians to the anxious Athenians. The Marathon race has been included in the modern Olympic Games since their revival in 1896.

Land sporting activities in Greece may have their devoted fans; but aquatics are equally -if not more- popular. It’s only natural, as the country is surrounded almost entirely by water. Water sports and games are very popular here, and fans can participate or watch the events that take place along and off the coastline and around the country’s numerous big and small islands. The Aegean 600 and the Aegean Regatta are two popular international yearly sailing races that take participants on an adventure across the Aegean Sea, in July and August – the course and destinations differ each year. There’s also a host of other water sports for you to try and enjoy, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced water sports fan. The same applies to the Ionian Sea, where the winds are generally milder and ideal for beginners. Lefkada Island is well-known for its water sports clubs & schools, and the islets southeast of Lefkada are ideal for exploration on any type of boat. For the experienced sailors among you, there’s the International Ionian Sailing Week, an annual event that takes place in late July – early August across the Ionian Sea.

Whatever your favourite sport(s) might be, there’s a world of options for you in the Greek mainland and the islands; make the most of them!
a rock/monument Marking the 40th KM of Marathon in Athens

Milestone 40 Km Athens Marathon | © Shutterstock

Cape Sounio with sailing boats on the background

Sailing Cape Sounio | © Fragoulis

Sailing boats in front of Santorini island

Sailing in Santorini | © Alevromitis

Groud cheering in a stadium where the finish line of marathon is

Finish Line of Athens Marathon | © Gravanis